THE COUNCIL SETS A RESPONSIBLE BUDGET WITH THE EMPHASIS ON HELPING THE VULNERABLE

On 1 March Sutton Council debated and agreed its budget for the next financial year. This was the annual budget meeting where we agree the Council’s budget. It is a responsible and balanced budget with the emphasis on helping the disadvantaged as we come out of the pandemic and the recession. Sutton has enjoyed safe and careful stewardship of its financial resources under the Liberal Democrat administration, in contrast to neighbouring Croydon, which has gone bust. The Conservative Councillors tabled no alternative proposal but voted against our budget. The debate was ably chaired my Trish, as Mayor. This was Richard’s speech.

“When I spoke on the budget last year I said that ever since I studied economics at University in the 1960s I seem to have been having arguments with right wing economists and politicians who hold the view that there is virtue in:

less Government intervention in the economy,

reducing the size of the State

and cutting taxes.

Since then, the pandemic has proved how wrong these views are – and proved the need for strong and well resourced Government at national and local level.

In the local context this means being able to provide effective health services to care for the many thousands of Sutton residents made ill by the pandemic, and being able to provide welfare support for the almost 19 000 Sutton residents, at the last count, reduced to poverty and relying on Universal Credit. That is approaching one person in every four homes in the borough with – if the proposed £20 cut in Universal Credit happens – a major increase expected in the number of Sutton residents using Foodbanks. And if the moratorium on evictions is not extended, more homelessness.

The economic and welfare effects of the pandemic are significant and we need strong government at all levels to deal with these consequences.

What we are celebrating tonight is a well structured and responsible budget that will give help to those who most need it – the emphasis being on supporting the most vulnerable by building on work with the health and voluntary sector, increasing funding on adult and children’s social services, and on helping local businesses and employers to mitigate the impact of the recession in Sutton – which, I see research for the Sunday Times has found is the fifth happiest place to live in England.

I support this budget, but I would stress most of all tonight the need for Government to help our 19 000 residents living in acute poverty by scrapping the £20 cut in Universal Credit planned for the end of March. Surely we must all agree on that.”

DEALING WITH ABANDONED CARS

IF YOU SEE AN ABANDONED CAR, LET US KNOW

Abandoned cars can be a problem and we discover abandoned cars from time to time in our Ward, or residents report them to us. This abandoned car was dumped in Langley Park Road. The Council will affix a letter to the windscreen and this gives the owner fifteen days to retrieve the car before it is removed and disposed of. This car was clearly abandoned, with the windows broken and number plates removed.

SHOCKING EVIDENCE OF LEVELS OF POVERTY IN OUR WARD

Trish and Richard have expressed their shock at the finding from the latest Government figures that almost 19,000 residents across Sutton are currently relying on Universal Credit – on average one person in every four homes in the borough.

This implies that up to 4,000 Sutton residents could end up being driven to Foodbanks if Ministers proceed with cutting Universal Credit by £20 per week. Richard estimates that possibly approaching a thousand residents in our Ward are relying on Universal Credit during the pandemic and perhaps 200 residents in our Ward will have to rely on Foodbanks if the current level of Universal Credit is cut.

Research by the Trussell Trust has shown that one in five people receiving the Universal Credit benefit said they are very likely to need to use a food bank if the benefit is cut. Almost one in five said they would be likely to fall behind on housing costs, such as mortgage payments or rent.

The Government has yet to say whether the temporary increase, introduced at the start of the pandemic and in place until the end of March, will be extended.

Richard says “We have no reason to believe that Sutton South Ward is much different from the rest of Sutton. While the Ward is sometimes regarded as more affluent, as local Councillors we know there are pockets of extreme poverty, not just on our social housing estates. The benefit system, though cut significantly in recent years, is a lifeline for struggling families, and has prevented many families in our Ward needing to turn to a food bank. We call on the Government to maintain Universal Credit at its current level.”

NEWS ON TRAFFIC SCHEMES

The Council has been taking legal advice on a recent High Court judgement against the Mayor of London which indicated that London Boroughs were misdirected and should not have been prevented from consulting in advance of implementing the “low traffic neighbourhoods schemes” introduced across London last autumn. Last year, the Mayor and the Conservative Government required Councils to move at pace to introduce these schemes and only consult after the measures were in place. We told them at the time that this was a mistake. We have been proven right. 

Sutton Council has concluded that in the light of the legal case all schemes have to be removed. We are disappointed as some schemes were working well, but we have no choice given the legal judgement. We are angry at Transport for London, who required introduction of the schemes without consultation but were so inattentive to the legal requirements that they left themselves open to legal challenge. The result is the withdrawal of the schemes.

In our Ward this affects three interventions, all of which were six month trials – the “school street” at Overton Grange school (to close the road to traffic for a short period as students arrive and leave to create a more peaceful and safe environment at the start and end of the school day), the 20 mph speed limit in roads east of Mayfield Road, and the closure of Kings Lane. The legal case means all three will have to be discontinued.

Of these interventions, the 20 mph limit was supported by residents in the Council’s “Streetspace” consultation, and we are pursuing how it might be restored in due course. This is not the end of the process. We remain committed to reducing traffic and pollution on residential roads and would very much welcome your views and suggestions. Drop us an email.

We will keep residents advised concerning future action. Stories that have been put round about other, new, road closures have no foundation.

UPGRADING OF ACCOMMODATION IN CEDAR ROAD

Richard in Cedar Road at the “Speedwatch” check on vehicle speeds, with the police

On February 3 Richard spent the evening tuned in to a “virtual” meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee and spoke to the committee about our concerns regarding a planning application for 27 Cedar Road. He spoke alongside a local resident who voiced similar concerns to ours. Our worry was about the overlooking of neighbouring properties due to extension of the building upwards with balconies that would overlook neighbours. The committee has a tradition of not voting along party lines, and had indeed earlier in its meeting thrown out a planning application relating to a building in Wallington recommended by officers for approval. The planning application for Cedar Road was, however, approved, by four votes to three with four abstentions. We will keep an eye on the progress of the building work.

Richard says “I have been inside this building, which is a former nurses’ home (accommodation for nurses at a local hospital) and is a “house in multiple occupation” with 31 small bed sitting rooms. It is not good quality accommodation, certainly in need of upgrading and money being spent on improving the building, so that is one positive aspect of the decision.”

TWO NEW TREES

We are delighted that, in accordance with the commitment of the Council to plant more trees to combat global warming, two new trees have been planted in The Ridgway. The story concerning the tree outside number 23 is interesting. Many years ago there was a tree pit here and a tree. The tree died. Contractors tarmaced over the tree pit. The tarmac would periodically sag. Richard suggested restoring the tree pit and planting a tree. At last this is done. The photo was taken during the brief fall of snow on 24 January.

SUTTON COUNCIL LENDS SUPPORT TO OUR PROPOSAL FOR CHANGES TO LOCAL BUS ROUTES

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing to make changes to local bus routes, including the S1, S3, S4, 80 and 407.

To find out more, including maps of all the routes affected, visit Transport for London’s website: tfl.gov.uk/sutton-croydon-bus-changes 

Trish and Richard have promoted a proposal put forward by Keith Percy of the Highfields Residents’ Association to extend the new S3 bus route so that it runs from Sutton station along Cedar Road to Eaton Road, then returning to Sutton station. This will be of value to residents in the east of our Ward. They have ensured that Sutton Council, in its formal response to the consultation, takes up this idea. The Council’s response says:

“The changes in the S3 and 413 will mean that the those who live in the Cedar Rd area near Sutton Station in South Sutton will no longer be on the S3 bus route and will not be on the 413 because its focus will change to further down Sutton High Street. However, Sutton South councillors, residents’ groups and the Sutton South Local Committee, support starting and ending the new S3 bus route in Eaton Rd reached via Cedar Road, to take account of this.”

Whether this proposal is accepted depends, of course, on Tfl.

TfL propose that there will be more buses serving the Sutton Hospital site (the Cancer Hub and the Harris Academy school) including a new S2 (which replaces some parts of the S4 route in Belmont and roads west of Brighton Road, and stops at St Helier Station). They propose that the 80 will be a double decker and will no longer serve the prisons, and the S1 will run with longer buses. 

The consultation closed on 20 December 2020 and we await the final decisions of TfL.

TWO IMPORTANT VICTORIES IN THE QUEST TO MAINTAIN THE QUALITY OF DEVELOPMENT IN THE WARD

Northumberland House viewed from Brighton Road

Trish and Richard, in their quest to maintain the quality of building in our Ward, have recently been involved in two important victories.

First, the Planning Inspectorate, have thrown out an awful application to build two houses in back garden land at 87 The Ridgway. The Inspector placed much emphasis on the incongruity of such a development in an Area of Special Local Character and commented “my assessment [is] that it would be an incongruous and alien form of development in the open rear garden environment.”

Second, last June Criterion Capital, the owners of Northumberland House, sought planning permission to add two storeys to the top of the building. Their application has been refused by Sutton Council. Northumberland House is the tower block at the corner of Brighton Road and Wellesley Road, about 200 yards along Brighton Road if you turn left when coming out of Sutton station.

Richard says “This proposal to put an extra two storeys on top of the building was hideous in terms of design. I am glad it has been thrown out.”

The owner sought planning permission to extend the building, creating a further 36 flats by having two extra storeys on the ten storey part of the building and an extra storey on the lower part, with some additional flats in the”undercroft” above the parking area. A few of the 47 parking spaces would be lost, due to a need for additional bin space.

The application was turned down on the basis of design of the proposed tower extension and the lack of window openings within some of the proposed units.

We had noted that there would be some positives, such as the creation of a community amenity and play space on the tarmaced area at ground floor level. However, while there is a shortage of accommodation in London and more housing is needed, we were concerned that the building work has the potential to be disruptive to the lives of current residents. Also, an extra two storeys on top of the building would look incongruous and clearly out of keeping with the design of the rest of the building.

Residents of Northumberland House were concerned about the likely disruption involved in this proposed work, and have long standing concerns about frequent lift breakdowns in the building, and security. We know that, Sutton Council having refused planning permission, the developer has a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, which, we find, often sides with developers on applications such as this. One thing we can do as local Councillors is to identify conditions that will protect the interests of residents, and that we will try to get built into any planning permission they eventually obtain. For example, we can seek to ensure there is a construction management plan to control hours of work and control noise and dust nuisance. We can ask that the contractor joins the Considerate Contractors Scheme, which provides a route for residents to raise concerns if they observe poor behaviour. We can seek conditions that will require that access to the roof areas is only by external hoists, and that the peace and quiet of the interior of the building is not disturbed or the interior turned into a storage area, or building site.